While the numbers of both wide receivers suggest that Victor Cruz should be the guy the New York Giants stick to if they are forced to make an economic choice between the two, Hakeem Nicks might eventually triumph in the decision between which one to keep and the other to let go.
When it comes to numbers over the last couple of season, Victor Cruz obviously wins – 168 receptions, 2628 yards, 19 touchdowns. Nicks has 129 receptions, 1884 yards and 10 touchdowns. This gives Cruz a huge edge in production, but looking deeper, even at the numbers, might suggest the Giants might still prefer Nicks to be the guy they stick to if push comes to shove.
Cruz is a restricted free agent, Nicks has one more year left on his deal. Cruz had a great start to 2012, but once tried out in a different position than the slot, on the outside, where cornerbacks got a little bit more physical with him, his production dropped. In general, his production dropped by about a third when compared to his breakout 2011 year. Over 65% of his reception yards came through the first 8 weeks.
Conclusion? The Giants are negotiating the contract with Cruz, but with Nicks as well in the same time. Cruz is asking for quite a lot of money, not too far from what Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson are getting, but the Giants are trying to hint at his agent and the receiver himself that it might have a lot to do with Eli Manning being the quarterback, and that a lot of other guys in the slot position will put up good numbers under the current system, getting thrown at by this quarterback.
As for Nicks, he is coming off a season in which an injury hurt him and the Giants. Still, he might not be as quick as Cruz, but he has more “number 1 guy” intangibles going for him – better hands, size, strength, and more versatility and an ability to out-jump defenders. He draws enough attention to himself, playing either on the outside or the slot, to help Cruz become as productive as he has over the last couple of years.
Eventually, the Giants might keep both – They might ask Nicks to prove to them he can finish a season with impressive numbers and no injury before getting the contract he wants, while franchising Cruz for the coming year, as expensive as that might be. The Giants don’t feel there’s any need for a major overhaul after not making the playoffs, but still, there’s not going to put all of their money in two wide receivers, feeling their productivity has a lot more to do with the quarterback than their talents.